Palahniuk is ‘Damned’ good

by Courtney Rogin

Ever wonder what happens after death? Well, Chuck Palahniuk gives yet another afterlife alternative in his latest novel, and it’s more like “The Breakfast Club” version of Hell.

Palahniuk is best known for his novels “Fight Club” and “Choke,” both of which have been adapted into critically acclaimed films. He has written 11 novels, and also writes shorter nonfiction pieces.

“Damned” is a 13-year-old’s account of life, or death, more accurately, after a fatal marijuana overdose at her Swiss boarding school during winter break. The speaker begins every chapter with a play off of Judy Blume’s famous 1970 novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Protagonist Madison asks the question: “Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison.”

Palahniuk’s Hell is, as many have been led to believe, a very dingy and disgustingly horrible world. It contains places such as Dandruff Desert, Sea of Insects and The Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm. Clearly not tempting summer vacation destinations, there’s also a version of every demon imaginable roaming around the ground ready and willing to snack off the head of one of Hell’s many residents.

Don’t worry, in Hell, people are regenerative, so this happens multiple times during one stay there.

“Damned” follows Palahniuk’s established writing style, with a linear story and the occasional flashback to life before Madison’s death. The novel’s structure is based on the aforementioned Judy Blume novel. The story itself is everything that can be expected from Palahniuk writing about death from the perspective of a teenager, but for a much more adult audience. He captures the temperament and attitude of a teenager through Madison’s description of her parents and their need for a new adopted orphan with every change of the season, while she is snuggly tucked away at boarding school.

Madison also has a cliché group of misfits at school, yet each character is oddly unique. Archer plays the most tangible form of an antagonist in the story. The punk rocker kicks off the expedition through the wild torment of discarded nail clippings and broken glass which sets up the adventure for the bulk of the novel.

Palahniuk does Hell the only way he knows how, by leaving a demented lasting impression long after the last page is turned.

“Damned” is published by Doubleday Publishing and on sale now for $24.95.